18 March 2011

Feedback requested on designs for version 2


We have already received lots of excellent feedback on our beta version 2 (beta.plsqlchallenge.com). One of the first reactions was "Couldn't you use graphical elements (color, icons, etc.) to make it easier to see the quizzes that can be played?"

Ah, yes....color! Images! How modern...how Web 2.0. :-) The PL/SQL Challenge site has so far been a very text-heavy and kind-a-boring table site. And that is precisely a reflection of my own limitations of design, development, and experience. Hey, I still think that SQL Forms 3.0 was the pinnacle of Oracle's development tools. Lines, boxes, green....what else do you need?

Well, it's 2011 and you need more. So I have asked Chris Shaw of Wilmington Marketing to provide a design that my friends at Apex Evangelists (and do check out their very cool new website) and the rest of the development team can then implement.

I share with you below our current concept for the welcome page (what you see when you visit www.plsqlchallenge.com and you are not logged in) and the home/dashboard page (what you see after you've logged in). We hope to start implementing this design on Wednesday, 23 March, so I'd love to hear what you think...ASAP. In particular, we'd like answers to these questions:
  • Are all the features available through the new Dashboard intuitive? If not – which feature was not obvious and how would you improve it? 
  • Are all the features available through the new Dashboard relevant and valuable? If not, which ones would you remove/add/change position? 
  • If you are a long-time daily player, would you stop and visit anything on the new home page before logging in? If so, what?
  • There are several new “additions” to the challenge. Is it clear what they are and what to do? If not, please suggest improvements.
Some other comments before you check out the screenshots:
  • Generally, I believe that players on the PL/SQL Challenge segregate into two groups: (1) competitors. You come to compete (as well as learn). You care about rankings and scores. You want to see how you are doing. (2) learners. You take the quiz and you care about your rank (though you might also be playing non-competitively, in which case there are no rankings), but you are primarily interested in learning. I would like the website to make clear that if you are not a competitor, you can still easily get to the information you want. And to not "scare you off" by thinking you have to be some sort of PL/SQL expert to play the Challenge.
  • Given the above perspective, I have changed "Past Quizzes" to "Library" and "Rankings" to "Compete". I don't think they will stay that way, but I want to keep reminding myself about this distinction. Do you think this is a good idea?
  • With 2.0, you will be able to play a guest quiz and view up to 5 past quizzes without logging in. I want to make it easier to see the benefits of registering before you go through those steps.
  • We are still sorting out exactly what data points would show up in the dashboard images, so feel free to let me know if anything in particular is really important to you.
OK, drum roll, please....

Here is the welcome page:

And here is the home/dashboard page:

17 March 2011

One Year Anniversary of PL/SQL Challenge Approaches

The PL/SQL Challenge was launched on 8 April 2010 - our one year anniversary approaches!

I just received this very nice note from a player:

Happy Anniversary!! One year ago today I started my association with the "Quiz" when I began working with the Beta Quiz. I have learned a lot about Oracle and myself because of the Quiz in that year. It has been Good. As I said earlier there is a little celebration going on in my cube because of this special day. I though it would be awkward, but with it also being St. Patrick's Day the party fits right in. No green beer however. If you have a chance stop by. I know the "Official" anniversary of the Quiz is still coming up, but that will just be the impetus for another party!

I'd been hoping to release version 2 of the website in time for the one year anniversary, but it looks like that will be delayed for all sorts of wonderful reasons, which I will share soon.

So I do not yet have plans set for a celebration, but I'd love to start collecting any others stories or comments from you, dear players.

How has the PL/SQL Challenge changed your life? Or, perhaps a bit more modestly, how has it had an impact on your work as a PL/SQL developer, both from the perspective of the technology and career? Do you have any funny, exciting, fascinating stories about what you've done or learned, playing the quiz?

You can post any such stories here or send them to me (steven@stevenfeuerstein.com). I will collect them together and publish them on the website.

Steven Feuerstein